Jailhouse Etiquette 200 -- Checking into Prison

I had the privilege of defending a young man convicted of two very very serious felonies because the jury said he used a gun to commit an ultimate sin on two different people for no good reason.   Sadly for my client and his family, he will enjoy the services of the State of California for the rest of his natural life.

San Quentin Prision
San Quentin's Welcoming Look
San Quentin is the receiving center for the Bay area for those convicted of felonies.  As of December 2008 the “Q” was one of the largest prisons in the United States with a population of 5,222 inmates.  Upon your arrival at your smelly new home, they make you throw everything you are wearing as you enter the hallway of the hallowed institution into a trash container. What ever personal property they let you keep depends upon the guard who goes through your stuff.  You are then ordered to dress in prison blues.  Hopefully they give you a shower, then they spray you with some kind of bug killer in case the county jail you came from had a lice or bed bug problem.  It should be no surprise that most county jails are not very clean. You are given underwear, socks, shoes, or boots and the clothing –including the underwear-- is probably used but washed in the prison laundry.

If you arrive at approximately 7-8 am, you are then given a series of medical check-ups and that can take up to twelve hours to complete.  Some receiving centers have you line up en masse and they check your penis and testicles while you are in the company of large groups of naked men and then they have you bend over and cough so they can make sure that you have not tried to smuggle money or other contraband into the institution in your anal cavity.

After your very intimate physical examination, you are then sent to a “counselor” who asks you a series of intimate question of a psychological nature, questions about the nature of your offense ad whether you are suicidal, among others.  Just a word, if you are convicted of murder, you are going to a maximum prison no matter how sorry you tell them you are about your offense.  The term of imprisonment largely dictates the number of points you will get.

You are then given a numerical value which reflects the level of the security of the institution to which you will be sent after your brief visit at the “Q.” There are four levels of institutions in California. Level 1 is for housing the least dangerous inmates and Level 4 housing is for the most dangerous. The Inmates Classification Score is used as a primary factor to determine the level of institutional placement.

Inmates can get points for commitment offense, unfavorable behavior, background factors, prior prison or jail behavior and special case factors. The new arrival can also have points taken off for favorable behavior.  If you are convicted for a crime of murder for example, you will most assuredly be sent to a level 4 institution until your “points drop“ which can take years to accomplish.  The good news for a lever 4 inmate is that he (or she, yes women are murders too) gets to spend their time in a two man cell rather than on four man bunk beds in some gym somewhere.

I’m told that the food in prison is better than in the county jail and that meals showers and the yard are the best events in prison.  You also get to visit the law library once a week to work on your appeal.

In short, prison has its advantages and if you have to do a long sentence you are better in prison than in the county jail.  At least the food is better.

If you are faced with a prosecution that would give you a trip to the San Quentin, make sure you present an excellent defense.  Visit the criminal defense attorney's website and contact Tim for help!

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